An unprecedented look at the machinations behind everyone's favorite Hollywood circus and what it reveals about the business of moviemaking.
Oscar parties. Oscar pools. Oscar style. Oscar predictions. The Oscars breed their own peculiar mania and a billion people worldwide are alleged to watch the broadcast every year. While that figure may be the Academy's big white lie, the Oscars draw a viewership well into the hundreds of millions--a tremendous audience for what is essentially a television program. But this is no ordinary show. Love it or loathe it, the Oscars are an irresistible spectacle: a gloriously gaudy, glitzy, momentous, and foolish window into the unholy alliance of art and commerce that is the film industry. The Oscar statuette is a totem of such potency that millions are spent and careers laid on the line in the reckless pursuit of an eight-pound chunk of gold-plated britannium.
The Big Show is a chronicle of the past fifteen years of the Academy Awards, the most tumultuous decade in Oscar's seventy-six year history. Written by the only journalist ever given carte blanche access to the planning, production, and backstage intrigue of the Oscars, it offers an unguarded, behind-the-scenes glimpse of this singular event, along with remarkable insight into how the Oscars reflect the high-stakes politics of Hollywood, our obsession with celebrities (not to mention celebrities' obsession with themselves), and the cinematic state of the union.
Entertainment journalist Pond (Premiere; etc.) opens this bluntly informative look at the "negotiations and machinations, the politics, the compromises and the excesses" of the Academy Award process by discussing the legendary tastelessness of the show Allan Carr produced in 1989, a production so savaged by critics that it destroyed his reputation (it began with Snow White and Rob Lowe performing a "Proud Mary" duet, prompting a lawsuit from Disney). Pond covers Oscar's early history, including such injustices as Norma Shearer's 1930 win over Greta Garbo, a victory triggered by MGM's orders that employees vote for studio chief Irving Thalberg's wife ("What do you expect?" Joan Crawford famously commented. "She sleeps with the boss"). He devotes many pages to the disastrous choice of David Letterman as host in 1995, whose excruciating jokes ("Oprah. Uma. Uma. Oprah") and pet tricks set a ludicrous tone; and cites Madonna's profane tirades during a 1991 rehearsal. The book covers Academy campaigns over the past 15 years, and effectively dramatizes how the show changed under the leadership styles of Richard and Lili Zanuck and current producer Gil Cates. Little-known anecdotes about Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal and Halle Berry confirm that Pond knows this backstabbing territory well, and fans of Hollywood gossip will find plenty of colorful new material.